The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Medics in the grip of fear
- Hospital horror stories across districts

Purulia, Nov. 2: The situation has never been like this, said doctors and paramedics at the Deben Mahato Sadar Hospital.

The 550-bed hospital, a referral centre for complicated cases from 20 blocks in the district, is caught in the wave of accusations against the healthcare delivery system sweeping the state.

The death of Rupa Chakraborty, 24, a week ago, after giving birth to a boy through Caesarean section, sparked trouble. Doctors, some of whom have worked at the hospital for more than 20 years, said they had not seen such “anger” before. There was no violence but the surge of crowd last Sunday and the gherao of the acting hospital superintendent stunned the hospital employees.

“It unnerved us,” said a doctor. Reports of violence and mob fury in hospitals in Calcutta and other districts following allegations of negligence has put the medical fraternity here on the edge.

“The public outcry after Rupa’s death and the demand to punish the so-called guilty doctor has intimidated us. We are hesitating to carry out any risky procedure, even if we know the chances of success are high,” said Partha Banerjee, a doctor attached to the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

Doctors, many of whom said they were working “under fear”, claimed the head of the gynaecology department, Dipak Choudhury, who operated on Rupa, was not responsible for her death.

An “independent” IMA inquiry into the incident concluded that the patient “was weak before she came to the hospital”.

District chief medical officer of health B.B. Patra had ordered an official inquiry into Rupa’s death by a four-member committee. The findings, submitted to the director of health services in Calcutta in the form of an interim report, absolved the doctor of the charges of negligence.

The report, however, pointed out two procedural deficiencies. It accused the hospital of not recording clinical findings and “vital signs”, both pre- and post-operation, and blamed it for a communication gap with the relatives of the patient.

Rupa’s husband had alleged that she was wheeled into the OT without his consent. After the delivery, she was brought back to her bed, where she started having convulsions. He also accused the doctors of being late in reacting to the emergency.

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